Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. (John 12:27)
Holy Week is almost upon us. The destiny that seemed so incredibly far away at Christmas has now come within reach. The disciples have heard him speak about that moment when he will be glorified, but they have not understood.
The closest followers of Jesus rarely followed precisely what he was saying. They were too focused on their dreams and their desires. Though he had spoken of his impending death, they refused to see the truth for what it was. They wanted something better, something bigger, and they knew that Jesus was just messing with them about this whole dying thing… right?
Our passage this weekend is one in which Jesus again alludes to the passion that is coming soon. He does his best to prepare them, even if they will not hear it.
However, something else occurs in this passage, as well. Jesus gets honest about his own emotional turmoil as he faces Calvary. Even God can wish that things could be different. In fact, that’s why Jesus came – to change things. But getting there is not going to be easy or fun.
Jesus shows remarkable resolve to live into his fate: choosing to die for those he loves. As a wise person once said, “Courage is not a lack of fear, but rather a choice that something else is more important than fear.” In spite of his soul being troubled, Jesus still knows what he must do and why he must do it.
After he marks his willingness to maintain the path, he continues by saying, “Father, glorify your name.” And a voice from heaven affirms his calling, his courage, and his course. Jesus says that this voice is for everyone else, but I’m not entirely certain that I believe that.
All of us, when facing a daunting task, need affirmation from those we know and trust. Many can continue without it, but oh how much stronger are those who receive it.
I remember during my own “call period” when I was making final decisions about going to Seminary, my Grandpa fell ill. At ninety years old, he had enjoyed a long and full life. My family surrounded him with love and grace, while I was busy pursuing what I felt God had called me to do. At Easter that year, I went home and spent one last weekend with him. As I was about to return to the airport on Sunday afternoon, he grabbed my hand tightly, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “I know you will do God’s work.” He died less than a week later.
I had been unsure in my task without even realizing it. Like all of us who seek to be disciples of Christ, God may set us on a path, but God also gives us the grace to choose to follow. It is not always an easy choice, because sometimes the trail will take us far away from what we have always known. Sometimes we will head down a route that will lead into difficult and challenging places. Saying yes may take all the courage we can muster.
On occasions when we face such a summons, here is the comfort we have: Christ has walked this way before us. As the old spiritual says, Jesus walked this lonesome valley… We are not alone. Though our soul may be troubled or the task seem too great, we have a traveling companion who will give us the strength and courage to carry on and fulfill our destiny.
Whatever ministry God has called you to accomplish, God will also give you the fortitude to see it through. For God goes before us, Christ walks beside us, and the Spirit pushes us to where we need to be.